Believe it or not though throughout the 1980's, Shonen was not the biggest genre in anime; very few of these titles were released in the West during this time, what little was released included the Fist of the North Star (Hokuto No Ken) movie and the Guyver OVA series. However perhaps one of the most obscure Shonen Jump properties licensed during the early days of anime fandom is the 1989 45 minute OVA Baoh - The Visitor, released by AnimEigo.
Baoh was adapted from a short-lived two volume series created by Hirohiko Araki from 1984 to 1985, who is most renowned for his long running series Jojo's Bizarre Adventure. Upon watching Baoh, many older fans will notice a remarkable similarity in both design and story layout to Yoshiki Takaya's Guyver manga which actually began around the same time of 1985. While Baoh technically came first, there is no doubt that both properties bear a striking similarity. For example, both series follow protagonists who are infected by a parasite that controls the host and grants them great physical power; as well as that both stories deal with mega-corporations and their genetically altered creations hunting down our hero. Oh, not to mention both series contain ridiculous amounts of ingeniously gory deaths to boot. With that, let the macho mega-manliness commence...
We begin on an armoured train carrying a young man by the name of Ikuro Hashizawa, as the evil weapons corporation known as Doress experiments with his body. They implant him with a parasite known as Baoh granting him near immortality and the ability to transform into a powerful mutant, which also includes elbow swords of course. Doress also is hunting down the most mature looking nine year old girl (already I am worried where this is going) called Sumire, an escapee who happens to be...psychic. It appears to me that in the 1980s, if you were a young girl in Japanese animation you were either psychic or possible lolicon material. Twice in a row I have had this cliche, a drinking game is in order. Weirdly enough, Sumire also happens to have a pet which looks almost exactly the same as the fox-squirrel Teto from Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind; the only major difference is that the tail has the most rocking afro to which I will refer to it as Superfly.
The man behind all this dastardly mayhem is Dr. Kasuminome, coming off as a cross between the colonel from Akira and the roundest Kinder egg. Along for the ride is his blue bombshell of an assistant Sophine, played by late veteran voice actress Yo Inoue (Sayla Mass, Kanuka Clancy) and various lackeys which I will detail over the course of the story. Ikuro awakens with his science fiction bondage gear intact and along with Sumire, outwit their foes and escape. The maniacal doctor vows to eliminate the boy so that the outside world does not learn about the Baoh experiment; the next day, the two strike an awkwardly abrupt friendship as they share their origins and trade off ideas about what to do to outrun Doress' goons. I love how this all feels like I am suspecting a sudden romance to blossom despite the fact there is an eight year gap between our compatriots, we can live in hope.
Out of nowhere an assassin named 'No. 22' (hooray for lazy writing), guts Ikuro in the middle of the street; however Ikuro manages to slowly drag himself across the street to a nearby motorcycle and escapes.....while the assassin STANDS THERE, watches him and Sumire leave without even thinking about I don't know...chasing them? After reporting back to Doress HQ of his situation, No.22 eventually takes up the chase while another lackey known as Colonel Dordo (sounds a bit dirty) explains how he 'never misses his target.' Oh, he is so dead. We are also informed of Baoh's apparent only weakness: complete cremation of the host's corpse. Chance of that happening in this show = none. To add just a little bit more exposition and possible random animal violence, Dr. Kasuminome demonstrates the power of Baoh by implanting the parasite in a dog for a brief and gory battle against a tiger. Koichi Ohata would be so proud. The parasite turns out to be manufactured by Doress mainly to sell off to unknown military powers as a powerful biological weapon, such innovative and groundbreaking storytelling we have here.
Anyway, No.22 follows Ikuro and co. to an isolated convenience store where he promptly stabs Ikuro again, because it really stopped him the first time; after No.22 prepares to torch the poor guy, the blade starts rising out of Ikuro's rapidly pulsating chest and he starts to fully transform into what is called Baoh's 'Armed Phenomenon'. Because the words 'final' and 'form' just were not hardcore enough for this show. Ikuro successfully overtakes the fleeing assassin and melts the guys face by squeezing it, forcing him to crash into the building. Immediately afterwards, Dordo is sent out with an 'elite' military squad which naturally is eliminated by Baoh after leaving Sumire behind to be the damsel in distress. Here within the span of about one minute, we are introduced to many of Baoh's powers which include the aforementioned elbow swords (wonder where I have seen that before?) as well as spikes from his hair which melt your head; not to mention he can still squeeze your face dry. With the use of the electrifying hairdo technique he manages to scar Dordo enough so that we reveal his true identity.....a terminator? Cue Brad Fiedel music score. After acquiring Sumire, Dordo makes it certain to our hero that he will most definetly be back. Yep, my bad puns have run dry.
With his sheer tenacity Ikuro via the magic of jump cuts manages to climb the rock face below Doress headquarters not while partaking in the shortest fight ever with Dordo. Aw, he just wanted to say how totally badass his one armoured bullet was. Believe me, this OVA has the common courtesy to explain everything that is happening on screen like it's intended audience has no eyes. How did Ikuro manage to figure out where their headquarters is you're probably wondering, he followed Sumire's um..scent. I will leave you to think that through for a minute. Several cataclysmic head explosions later, we are introduced to yet another monstrosity by the name of Walken. Picture if Rambo joined the Village People and you'd get my drift. Walken is also revealed to be a Native American and is the most powerful psychic on earth. I think Lucifer from Angel Cop wants a word with you.
After Boah is cornered by Walken's 'Molecular Air Motion Wave' attack, he resorts to slicing off his left arm and flinging his right elbow sword into the burly psychic's head seemingly killing him. Remember that there is about ten minutes left so don't count on that. With Sumire saved by a blood-soaked kiss (quick someone find the peadophile general!) from Baoh they plan for a daring escape; however Walken is pretty miffed at this point as his full psychic power has been released from his torn bandana. I think this show actually has the record for the largest number of random plot points pulled straight out of cliche guidelines 101 I have ever seen. The now boggled Doctor along with Sophine attempt to escape in a pod but are abruptly delayed by Baoh's finishing blow to Walken and his sugar-induced fit involving the most obviously placed and pointed out laser gun ever. Oh and I forgot to mention Baoh has electricity running through it, go figure. Long story short, Baoh blows Walken away after the Doctor shouts the name of the finishing move like a fighting game announcer with both him and Sophine slain by falling stallactites. He has one last breath to utter a speech on how Baoh is the ULTIMATE WEAPON! naturally. The show ends with Ikuro being swept under by the wreckage of Doress HQ as it falls apart with Sumire yearning to see him again as a badass closing song plays.
I will happily admit that Baoh is arguably one of the most braindead animes I have ever seen, the film is full of stock characters with little to no personality save for some contrived exposition. Not to mention, the writing is so hammy and nonsencial it almost descends into self-parody with nearly every scene narrated by one character to fully get across that everything that is happening on screen is VERY IMPORTANT. The dub recorded by Coastal Carolina Sound Studios cranks up the campiness to new heights, the actors themselves don't act that badly but the way they overdramatise every line of dialouge means all dramatic tension is shot. This being a source of unintentional hilarity makes Baoh very entertaining for bad dub afficionados. Despite the derivative nature of the story, there is surprisingly a good deal to like about Baoh. While the typical 80's ultra-violence is as prevalent as ever here, the animation itself for the most part is surprisingly fluid for such an obscure release with some relatively detailed character designs to boot by Masayuki Yamaguchi (Doomed Megalopolis, Macross Plus). Baoh is good old fashioned 80's Shonen shlock with a near non-existent story, above average animation and character designs, bucketfuls of gore and jam packed with hilariously clunky exposistion. Director Hiroyuki Yokoyama went on to direct very few projects after Baoh, the most noticeable aspects of his resume include being a Unit Director on ZZ Gundam as well as Gundam 0080. Baoh is now one of AnimEigo's rarest out of print releases alongside Crusher Joe and Arcadia of My Youth so finding the DVD release at a decent price is going to be no easy feat. However online it is very easy to find and download through torrents. So if you tire of the current Shonen mayhem or are looking for dumb fun with out it being obnoxious, Baoh is certainly not a bad choice for the anime action junkie.
- Shonen cliches: The whole list
- Ripoff of Guyver? Oh, be quiet.
- Gratuitous nudity? Sadly no.
-Oli, 25 August 2009 (original date)